A simple swipe of lipstick can have a major impact on your look. A bright red lip feels bold and sexy. A coral done right is less “Golden Girls,” more vacation mode. A soft neutral can pull together a look.
But, with so many shades and styles, lipstick can be a little tricky. How do you find a shade that works for you? And, once you do, how do you make sure it doesn’t suck all the moisture out of your lips?
We asked makeup artists to dish on their best lipstick tricks. Here’s what they had to say.
Choose the perfect shade based on your skin tone
First things first, you’ll want to determine your skin tone, explains Jessica Ceballos, makeup artist at Warren Tricomi Salons. You have a warmer skin tone, she explains, if gold jewelry complements your complexion best and your skin appears more yellow with a greenish tint to your veins. You have a cool skin tone, she says, if you find silver jewelry looks better on you and your skin appears more rosy pink or red or your veins look blue.
Warm tones: “Opt for peachy pink, orange-toned reds, and rosy pink lipstick,” Ceballos says.
Cool tones: “Cool skin tones look best in lipsticks with blue or purple undertones,” Ceballos says. “So colors like blue-based reds, mauves, or pinks are great.”
Factor in your style and personality
Beyond skin tone, it helps to decide on a color family that fits your style and personality, says makeup artist and beauty blogger Rashee Gupta, who is also the founder and CEO of MGS Accessories, a cruelty-free, vegan company.
“If you are traditional, I would suggest a red, and if you have a bohemian style, try a nude,” she says. “If you are edgy, opt for a plum or wine color.”
Try a universal shade
Want a fool-proof, everyday color? Ceballos says a warm mauve works great on all skin tones and is a perfect everyday color. She recommends Tom Ford’s “Sugar Glider” (Saks Fifth Avenue, $55).
As for personality, a good lipstick diplomat suggested by Gupta is “Posh” ($20), a pink-nude matte liquid lipstick from her MGS line.
Opt for a shade that will give the illusion of whiter teeth
A general rule: Cool undertones will make your smile look whiter and brighter because they minimize any yellow tones on your teeth, explains celebrity makeup artist Alejandro Falcon with Osmosis Colour. He suggests his brand’s lip gloss in “Pink Sapphire” (Amazon, $19).
On the flip side, the wrong color can give the illusion that your teeth are yellow.
“Generally, colors that are too dark, frosted, or yellow in undertone can make your teeth look more discolored,” he says.
Stop testing lipstick on your hands
Whether we learned it from mom or beauty magazines, you’re probably accustomed to swiping a lipstick on your hand or the wrist to get a preview of what it will look like. But, Melodie Reynolds, CEO and founder of Elate, a sustainable cosmetics brand, says it’s time to abandon this beauty habit. “Your lips are usually much more pigmented than your hand will be,” she says. Instead, she says, ask an artist to apply the lipstick for you or get a sample to try it directly on your lips.
Try these tricks to keep your lips from drying out from matte lipsticks
Matte lipsticks are less oily, so they tend to present as more luxe and usually have better staying power. But, without those extra oils, they can be extremely drying and tough on your lips.
One trick that Rachel Felder, the author of “Red Lipstick: An Ode to a Beauty Icon,” shared with us is to use a lip balm underneath.
“And if lips still get dried out, I suggest exfoliating with a sugar scrub, then slathering lips with plenty of lip balm, ideally right before bed,” she says.
Avoid ingredients that can dry out or irritate your lips
Also, opt for matte lipsticks that are made with more natural ingredients rather than chemicals that tend to cause dryness and irritation, suggests Eve Dawes, the founder of Dawes Custom Cosmetics, a luxury custom lipstick company that uses cruelty-free ingredients. If your lips are drying out, check to see if ingredients like ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, alcohol denat, methanol, SD alcohol, and benzyl alcohol are listed in the ingredients. Where alcohols are listed in the ingredients, you want to make sure they’re not toward the top of the list, she says. The sooner it’s mentioned, the higher its concentration, she says.
Some better alternatives, she says, include natural plant waxes and oils like shea butter, vitamin E, jojoba, grapeseed oil, and castor.
Try these tricks to make your lipstick last throughout the day
As part of your self-care routine, Gupta suggests exfoliating with a scrub or lip mask and hydrating your lips with an oil or lip balm. A step most people forget, though, is lightly powdering lips to prime and prep them for lipstick, Gupta says. The loose powder will give your lipstick a grip. Lining your lips will also give you more staying power.
Also, Ceballos recommends applying a lip primer. Her current favorite is Liplift Lip Primer by Guerlain (Sephora, $37).
5 more lipstick lessons
A certified beauty expert, I’m not. In fact, you could dock my credentials because, as a tomboy, I only wore lip gloss until my mid-20s, which was around the same time that I found out brands other than Nike made sports bras.
But, over the past decade or so, I’ve developed somewhat of a love affair with lipsticks. Unlike my jeans, lipstick always fit. And, when I was a newspaper reporter on a budget with a capital B, I didn’t have discretionary income for new clothes each season—but I could spend $20 here or there on a new shade of lipstick that I felt transformed my look.
Somehow, over the past decade or so, I’ve developed a signature bohemian style. I wear floral dresses and pink lipsticks like a uniform. Add to my CV that I love to include a tube of lipstick in gifts that I give my girlfriends.
Here are five tips that I’ve learned in my pursuit of makeup (better late than never!).
- Buy chapstick or hydrating balm in bulk. I probably have 10 different chapsticks and balms because I keep one in the pocket of every coat and every purse. This trick comes via my grandma. The key to rocking lipstick is having hydrated lips so it doesn’t look cracked or uneven.
- Try dabbing it on with your finger or a makeup brush. Buying a new shade, or a bold shade, can be intimidating. If you’ve ever felt like your lipstick looks a little too “costume-y,” try dabbing a bit of it on your finger and rubbing it in or use a brush for the same effect. Any lipstick can be turned into a more subtle stain for everyday looks.
- Don’t toss an off shade. If you buy a shade that feels too bright, you can usually tone it down and create a more suitable color with a nude lipstick. You may create a custom color you love.
- Try this the next time you break your lipstick. If you get to the bottom of a tube or break your lipstick, try getting some more mileage from it by combining it with a tin of lip gloss for a tinted gloss.
- You can customize your own shade. Whether you’re looking for a fun gift or want to create your own line of lipstick, beauty stores and brands, like Bite Beauty in San Francisco, have lip labs to do just that. What would you name your shade?
Brittany Anas is a freelance writer who specializes in health, fitness, and travel writing. She also contributes to Men’s Journal, Women’s Health, Trip Savvy, Simplemost, Orbitz, and Eat This, Not That! She spent a decade working at daily newspapers, including The Denver Post and the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado, and she is a former federal background investigator. In her free time, Brittany enjoys hiking with her gremlin-pot belly pig mix that the rescue described as a “Boston Terrier” and coaching youth basketball. She also works with domestic abuse survivors, helping them regain financial stability through career coaching. Follower her on Twitter and Instagram.